Smartphones may be suspects in Ghana mobile network congestion

“The VODAFONE, MTN, TIGO, AIRTEL or EXPRESSO number you are calling is currently switched off or out of coverage area.” This is the sexy female but irritating voice that you will hear when you are making an urgent call to a mobile number that is in use even when that mobile number is beside you.

Have you ever wondered what might have been causing this? What are some of the factors responsible for this?

According to the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), smartphones are part of the problem. Smartphones such as Iphone, Android, Black Berry, Nokia ‘N’ series among others not to talk about Tablets like Samsung Galaxy Tab and Ipad also cause mobile network congestion.

This, according to ITU, is because these smartphones use five or more data capacity than ordinary phones within a limited mobile broadband spectrum.

“Smartphone users already consume on average five times more data capacity than users of ordinary mobile phones”, says ITU Secretary-General Dr Hamadoun Touré.

According to Dr Touré, the number of smartphones is set to rise from today’s global estimate of 500 million handsets in use, to almost two billion by 2015 which means that the problem will worsen if measures such as expansion of broadband spectrum are not put in place.

Although mobile operators are investing billions of dollars to improve the performance of their networks, Dr Touré said users are still frustrated by chronic problems of network unavailability.

“Mobile operators have been investing billions to upgrade and improve the capacity and performance of their networks, we are still seeing users frustrated by chronic problems of network unavailability.”

In Ghana, the problem is not different from what the ITU Boss indicates.

Mobile phone operators in Ghana are selling and advertising smartphones and tablets like Black Berry, Nokia, Samsung Galaxy Tab among others. And even though, some of them are investing in expanding their netwoks, there isn’t much improvement in their services as callers continually experience problems like unavailability of service, call drops and poor call quality.

Governments of the day is not suppose to be taken out of this mobile network jamming since it has also failed woefully in providing a more wider mobile broadband spectrum to ease the congestion.

Even though the national regulator, the National Communications Authority (NCA) has issued a press release early this year indicating that it has awarded a $5.5million Broadband Wireless Access (BWA) licenses in the 2500 – 2690 MHz band to a company for the next ten years to provide wireless broadband connectivity to subscribers and to develop and operate broadband networks to provide nationwide BWA services as well as a suitable technology of their choice and to provide fixed, nomadic or mobile broadband services throughout Ghana, the measure seems not to be enough even though it is a good start.

The ITU has said that mobile broadband is increasingly the technology of choice for hundreds of millions in the developing world, where fixed line infrastructure is often sparse and expensive to deploy.

“ITU therefore estimates that the number of mobile broadband subscriptions will reach one billion in the first quarter of 2011. With ninety per cent of the world now covered by a mobile signal, it is clear that mobile is a key tool to bridging the digital divide. By 2010, 73 per cent of total mobile cellular subscriptions were from the developing world

This is also due to new trends in technology with the popularization of social media networks such as Facebook, Twitter and Skype.

The report urged governments not to limit market entry, not to tax broadband and related services too heavily, and to ensure ample availability of spectrum to support mobile broadband growth.

Smartphone users in Ghana are set to increase even though the official subscriber base is not yet known. Efforts to get the number of smartphones in the country from the mobile phone operators were unsuccessful as the companies did not reply our enquiries on the matter.

Apart from the mobile operators selling both smartphones and tablets, other mobile phone retail vendors are also selling these phones.

As at December 2010, the number of people using mobile phones in Ghana has hit 75% of the country’s estimated 23 million population.

According to statistics on the website of the industry regulator, the National Communications Authority (NCA), the total number of mobile phone subscribers in Ghana is over 17.4 million.

It puts the figure specifically at 17, 436, 949 subscribers which is an increase of 2.2% from the November figure of 17,062,917. And the 2.2% increase in subscriber rates in the month of December is the highest increase in the entire year 2010.

By Ekow Quandzie

1 Comment
  1. Kwadwo Ntiamoah-Sarpong says

    It is, because GSM, is actually designed for voice and not data, even though it can be used for data. With the influx of smart phones and high rich content of mobile internet, congestion will increase

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